‘Ok, Google, remind me how far are we to true voice search?’
‘Not that far, Sir’
While you might panic at first at the realization that a new technology paradigm has become reality, wouldn’t you stop for a second and think how nice it would be to have an actual conversation with your personal, Google-powered, AI assistant?
I know. And we’re not that far away from the future of voice search; true conversation search which in 2016 already makes for 20 percent of all of Google’s searches. With the recent release of Google Home, the future of search will be voice-powered – and here’s what you, as a content creator, need to understand.
Google Home is a voice-activated speaker, integrated with a lot of (Google services including search), powered by the Google Assistant, the search giant’s voice search platform.
Unlike Google’s website or Apple’s Spotlight search on the Mac, you don’t have to type in your questions. You just – ask Google Home – akin to using the smart assistants on your iPhone or Android.
While a lot of companies (should) think about monetizing products from the get-go in order to either cover their costs, or in the case of startups, raise funding for their ambitious plans; Google doesn’t have to.
Just like it’s community offering took the 3rd try to become YouTube Community which we wrote about last week, Google Home is both a product as well as an experiment in voice searching.
Let me explain:
You might not remember, but Google actually debuted conversational search at its Google I/O conference… in 2013… for the Chrome browser. Search experts called the then new feature a truly significant change when it came to so-called ‘natural language’ and ‘semantic’ search.
How many times have you used voice search on your Mac or PC in the browser? With two hands on the keyboard, while listening to your tunes on your headphones, it’s easier – and faster – to just type.
Chrome definitely isn’t the reason voice searches have increased to 20% of all searches. It’s smartphones! Three years later, Google is finally bringing conversational search to the home with Google Home.
Google Home will let you audiences reach your content, more easily:
What it’s not going to do is ruin the experience with ads, because for Google – Google Home isn’t about making money from voice search queries, but about building new ways to, as SearchEngineWatch’s Tom Murphy explains; ‘Capture Search Intent.’
Don’t worry, however. Of all of Google’s advertising revenue, which makes the bulk of all the company’s revenue, over 77% comes from Google’s own websites and products such as Google Home.
While Google Home might be a new product for the search giant, the shift to voice search isn’t.
As Behsad Behzadi, who has worked at Google for more than 10 years, explains in his SMX conference talk, Google ‘understands’ more than 2 billion entities, 54 billion facts, 38,000 types of entities – and those numbers are still growing.
The real shift to voice search came with the shift to mobile, thanks to a new generation of smartphones adopted around the world. While the iPhone showed all the possibilities, it was Google’s Android that made them accessible to users around the world which is exactly why in 2015 people we more searches on phones and tablets than on desktop.
It’s not smartphones though anymore.
Devices such as smart watches and even smart cars lend themselves more to voice than type search. Google Home is thus just a new product in a line of solutions whose interface is definitely tailored to speech. As Behzadi notes: ‘With new devices, speech is the easiest and sometimes the only way of input.’
Since on one finds it awkward to talk to their devices, voice search is only growing.
It’s no surprise then that according to a 2014 Google Mobile Voice Study, teens did 59% of their voice searches while watching TV and 59% while with friends!
While voice search might be increasing in use thanks to mobile platforms as well as products such as Google Home, it’s still not the dominant form of search and probably won’t be for some time.
So don’t expect Captain Kirk to Star Trek Google Search your blog posts – yet.
But as we transitional into an age where we need to focus on long form content in order to capture search engine traffic, we also need to plan – long term!
Here are some practical steps you can take in order to better prepare yourself for the conversational search revolution:
1. Use voice search: Reading articles and guides just like this one certainly helps, but no amount of SearchEngineLand or SEOMoz articles are going to prepare you for what’s happening like using the technology yourself. So make a habit of using Siri on your iPhone or Google Assistant on your Android. Get the new Google Home. Since we’ve been taught to optimize for typed Google Searches, it’s time to re-learn about how search can work – as users!
2. Discover voice searchers in your audience: We’ve already mentioned Google’s own study about voice search behavior; and depending on whether you are creating a YouTube show, targeting teens or adults, the behavior of your audience may vary. Use voice search each couple of months to google ‘Ok, Google. Find me voice search trends.’ in order to meta-search your way to knowing the latest data. Another good place to get started is Google’s very own research blog.
3. Answer questions, duh! While it was enough to target high search volume keywords or maybe focus on long tail ones, neither will work in 2020 if you don’t answer real questions to your audience. Don’t expect your readers or viewers to ‘talk to’ Google Home in keywords you optimized for.
4. Look at social media shares, not just search logs: While search logs in Google Analytics will tell you how your audience is coming to you today through organic search, it’s Twitter and Facebook that will tell you how they truly communicate your content among themselves. Delve into the data and keep an eye for what words and phrases they use. You might be shocked to discover that they aren’t at all the same!
5. For new domains, think what’s search friendly: Because users will ask ‘human’ questions, it’s essential to have a voice-search friendly domain that doubles as a phrase. Examples include About.Me and PayPal.Me, both adding an action to these service’s brands. For your .Me domain, just visit our register page!
6. Keep an eye on absolute numbers for your voice searches: As Moz’s Rand Fishkin notes, while the number of voice searches has gone up, it doesn’t mean that type search is declining. It’s going up as well, so when you look at what part of the searches for your keywords are made up of voice search; look at absolute numbers, not just percentages!
7. Optimize for local search: Especially with Google Home, users will search for ‘local’, for example, plumbers or other services. We’re still not sure how the preference for local on Google Home will influence searching for content, but even as content creators, we need to have this trend in mind. While having our address on Google+ or a Yelp page might not help, who knows how some of us might use the benefits of an even more powerful local Google search!
While voice search might not be new and SEO professionals have been talking about it for some time, it’s only with the advent of new devices of Google Home that we, content creators, need to listen in. As iProspect UK’s SEO Account Executive, Joe Pattison, puts it: ‘Google has announced it is removing its “OK Google” hot word voice search feature from the desktop version of Chrome. Undeniably, the use of voice in search has changed consumer search habits and digital marketers need to adapt their approach in order to stay ahead of the curve.’
‘Ok, Google. What do our commenters have to say about voice search?’
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